Is the Era of the Superstar Media Executive Over?

Pay attention to what’s happening at AT&T as it takes charge of WarnerMedia, the TV and movie businesses formerly known as Time Warner. In addition to changing names and leaders — with telco vet John Stankey replacing Jeff Bewkes, who’s now a “senior adviser” — you’ll see a different leadership model that’s about to become the industry norm.

The sun is setting on superstar CEOs including Disney’s Bob Iger, CBS’ Leslie Moonves, and Fox’s Rupert Murdoch — thought to be indispensable due to their abilities to identify popular infotainment, attract creative people, or craft strategically savvy deals.

They’ll be replaced by less flashy executives who’ve mastered comparatively mundane, but important, management skills: building efficient teams and workflows, and meeting budgets. Consider it a victory for process over personality.

As the media business becomes more competitive, and stock prices decline, investors and the public are discovering that “some CEOs aren’t nearly the sine qua nons they think they are,” says former AT&T Broadband chief Leo Hindery, who wrote “It Takes a CEO: It’s Time to Lead with Integrity.”


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